GLOBSEC’S ANNUAL SPEECH ON EUROPE
We are delighted to provide you with a transcript of Kristalina Georgieva’s speech delivered at GLOBSEC Tatra Summit 2017 Gala Dinner
I’m deeply touched, I’ve been introduced in such an emotionally touching manner by somebody who I very deeply respect and who I have seen reaching to decisions with significance for his country and the European Union with thoughtfulness and always staying calm.
I’m also quite touched that you would start with a story that I really often use when I talk about the transformation we have to go through. But being in the Tatra Mountains, I thought I would start with another story I often use, and it is about two men and a bear.
Two men are walking around the Tatra forest, and all of a sudden, they encounter a big brown bear. One of the men immediately starts running, the other one pulls off his backpack, takes out his sneakers and starts putting the sneakers on his feet. The first man says ‘’are you crazy? Do you really think with your sneakers you will outrun the bear?’’ The second man says, ‘I don’t want to run faster than the bear, I want to run faster than you.’’
This story is going to be at the heart of what I want to talk about – is Europe running faster than the other guy? Most of the discussion that we have had today focus primarily on the internal challenges we face. But there is this big world out there and it is absolutely essential for Europe during a period of time when we are moving towards multipolarity to seize the opportunity for leadership. To stand up and be counted.
We have gone through a difficult ten years. We have gone as, Maros has recorded in his opening speech, we have gone through financial crises, refugee crisis, terrorism, Eurozone in Greece – in Greece but maybe out. But the most traumatic of all crises we have gone through was the ‘mother of all crises’ – a crisis of confidence. And it has pained me to see how Europeans undersell themselves.
And we should not. Because of who we are. Europeans are wonderful. We’re generous. We value the beautiful things that culture brings. We help each other, and we help others in dire need. And we have incredibly smart and well-educated people. In fact, my institution, the World Bank, some years ago issued a very positive and flattering report about Europe and Europeans. Among the findings was that Europe is the world’s ‘lifestyle superpower.’ Everybody wants to live as Europeans do!
So, my message this evening is that it is absolutely critical in this moment of time to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to deal with our internal difficulties and we have to stand up to the world and seize leadership. And I want to talk about three areas where I believe that Europe must take leadership.
First, in the global economy. As we have heard today, if not Europe, who will bring norms and standards for an open and multilaterally-tuned economy where workers and rights are respected, and we compete not because we want the other guy to be eaten by the bear. We all want to be able to run far and fast. Europe has, unfortunately, over the past few years somewhat less present in demonstrating this leadership globally. We’re picking up on trade, but we must be bold in the way we approach the rules in which we operate.
We in Europe have so many regulations that are from the 20th century. We are not in the 20th century anymore. We have to think about a regulatory environment that protects rights but also gives flexibility in our labour market that makes it possible for people to adjust to this fast-moving technological environment.
I was amused listening to Christine Lagarde during the annual meetings. Christine said the following - ‘’now that the rain has stopped and there is sunshine, it’s the moment to fix the roof.’’ And I was amused because, unfortunately, experience has systematically and repetitively been that we fix the roof when it pours. And we in Europe at the moment have to realise that we are just about to repeat that mistake because we are becoming a little less pushy on the reform front because the sun is shining.
I’m going to tell you something that is not yet published. It will be published on the 31st October and it is our ‘Doing Business’ report. This report compares conditions for doing business within countries, and it is in its 15th edition and now integrates some 22 measurements of different ways of capturing the business environment. So here is the news that is going to come. For the second year in a row, many EU countries are actually sliding down than going up in the rankings. And that is where we do not want to be. So, I would argue, while it is really difficult to do reforms when the sun is shining, we should listen to Christine and step up on the pedal, so our economies become more competitive and our institutions capable of confronting the challenges of the 21st century.
I’m particularly keen to see this happening in the area of digital, innovation, education, science, technology, because this is where we see more companies from the US and Asia picking up speed on than European companies. I will tell you my personal sad story. I went back to the United States and I had to buy a car. Never before have I bought anything but a European car and so I assumed I would be buying a European car except that I wanted to have an electric car that could go great distances. However, we Europeans do not make European cars, so I bought a Tesla.
So, I said to myself, I want in two years to replace it with a European car that has the same competitive edge. For this to happen we have to change how we educate people in Europe. Once again, our education has to be the envy of the rest of the world. How we train, how we re-train and how we measure success. And I will tell you another story about PISA. Singapore got to be number 1 in PISA and I got to talk to the Prime Minister of Singapore and I, of course, politely congratulated him. He looks at me really sad and says ‘’why are you congratulating me? Being number 1 on the ranking of the 20th century means nothing.’’ So, I hope in Europe we invent the ranking of the 21st century that allows us to push our education system to become the most competitive in the world.
My second point concerns the Euro. I know that we are going to enter many discussion, should we integrate more, should we not. But from a global perspective there is only one answer – yes we must. We have to build our currency to carry us forward in competitive terms in a way that serves our businesses, serves our economy and serves our people.
My third and final point concerns on where Europe absolutely must exercise leadership it's the area I currently work on – development. Why? Because when we look at the world around us, where is the most dangerous for Europe? In our neighborhood? We can talk about the Horn of Africa or Yemen or Libya or Syria or Mali. These are all countries where extremely bad things are happening. Extreme poverty is going up not down, and it is going up because of wars, bad governance, because of something we should pay much more attention to: population growth.
When Mali grows its population by 3% but its economy by 2.5%, where do you think people from Mali would like to go to work? Certainly not Mali. I am convinced that in this area, Europe is strong, and it ought to become stronger. We ought to lead the world in treating development investments as part of our security and defence investment. And do it because it is morally right – it is in our heart to be generous – but also because of it so much in the interest of the European public. And I’m very much hoping that my call that came from the Bank at exactly last year during the Tatra Summit, and the first person I told that the call had come was Peter here, it was for a reason.
Europeans own 30% of The World Bank. Before my arrival at the top of this institution, we had an American, an Indonesian, a Chinese and a Brazilian. And now it is for a European from the Eastern part of Europe to run it. I need you to help not me and the Bank, but in development, for us to have a more peaceful, more secure world, and it would be a more prosperous world for all of us.
Ms. Georgieva is the Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank.